Low percentage of Christians using Internet filtering shows ignorance of the dangers
By Lori Ensley, AFA Journal summer intern and daughter of Steve Ensley
September 2000 – If your child asked you if he could play on a highway, would you let him? Probably not. You don’t have to experience the dangers of playing on a highway to be able to explain them to someone. It’s simple: if you stand in the highly dangerous path of fast-moving vehicles, you are going to get seriously hurt.
If this is such as obvious concept, why don't Christians apply it when it comes to the Internet? Some Christians are toying with the danger that lies in the “information superhighway.” Ironically, many Christians are giving their kids free license to play in the information superhighway as much as they want.
Seven out of 10 Christians have Internet access – but only one out of 10 has filtered Internet access. Does that statistic surprise you? Perhaps not. But what is surprising are the excuses Christians use for not having filtered Internet access.
Steve Ensley is the president of American Family Online, a filtered Internet service provider. He shared some of the excuses he has heard during his travels around the country telling people about American Family Online and the dangers of Internet pornography, hate sites, gambling sites, and violent game sites.
During the past two years of travel, Ensley has heard moms say, “My husband and children wouldn’t do that.” Dads have said, “My children wouldn’t look at that kind of stuff.” Even couples without children have claimed they don’t require filtered Internet access because they don’t have any children.
Ensley’s response? “You don’t have to intentionally look for pornography and other harmful material on the Internet. You will eventually run into it, and that is why you need to protect your families. The porn industry is getting very good at tricking people.”
He says pornography site operators will constantly change their web addresses to look like something they are not. For example, a search using the words “solar panels” has brought up links to porn sites.
According to Ensley, another excuse that is common among Christians is: “The filters don’t work anyway. They either block too many good sites or not enough bad sites.” Ensley explains that no filter is perfect, but that the filters are made to sort information based on the actual websites and not on specific words. Therefore, even if words have double meanings, you will still be able to get to the medical and research websites.
What’s the danger?
The following statistics concerning the evils of the Internet are startling:
➤ Out of the 330 million websites in the world, “adult” sites outnumber ministry sites three to one.
➤ There are almost eight times as many game sites (involving violent or inappropriate material) as there are church sites.
➤ Vulgar shock-jock Howard Stern has four times the number of sites dedicated to him as you will find devoted to author and psychologist Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family.
➤ Mother Teresa, one of the most caring and selfless people that ever walked the earth, has 13,900 websites devoted to her. But secular singer/actress Madonna (Material Girl) has an incredible 71 times the number of websites devoted to her as to Mother Teresa.
➤ For every website promoting pro-family values, there are a startling 246 homosexual sites.
Since the overwhelming number of websites found on the Internet are negative, as opposed to good sites, the chances are pretty good that you or your children are going to stumble upon them.
Only kids are at risk…right?
Ensley also makes the point that “at any age, people can be damaged” by the Inter - net. Children have stumbled upon websites that have resulted in great harm.
For example, the youth who was respon - sible for the school shooting in Paducah, Kentucky, a few years ago frequently visited Internet sites with pornography and violent games such as “Quake” and “Doom.” Those sites were said to have affected his actions the day he wreaked havoc on his school.
Children have entered into chat rooms where they think they are talking to another child who turns out to be a sexual preda - tor to whom they gave too much private information.
Some believe the gambling industry targets teens on the Internet, and harmful sites on the Internet affect adults as well.
Adults can often fall into the trap of “emotional adultery and affairs” on the Internet. Numerous jobs and marriages have been lost due to the access to addictive pornographic sites.
But I already surf safely
Perhaps Christians don’t know or don’t want to know of the dangers of the Internet. Either way, they cannot continue to let the secular world “own” the Internet. “The Internet can be used as a powerful tool for ministry, but it can also be tremendously destructive,” Ensley says. “It is not a question of if you will get hurt, but when you will get hurt.”
Ensley makes the following analogy: “Using the Internet without a filter is like driving without wearing seatbelts. You will get away with it for a while, but you will eventually end up getting hurt.” You never know when you or someone else in your family will run into the harmful things on the Internet that cause damage.
For Christians the Internet offers many advantages. Yet, as we navigate uncharted Internet waters, it is essential to guard our hearts, minds, and families against dangers that lurk below the surface.